WA Court of Appeals dismissed a criminal case due to prosecutorial mismanagement and withholding of evidence.
My opinion? It’s about time! The prosecutors, God bless ’em, usually have the upper hand with judges. Typically, judges won’t sanction prosecutors or dismiss cases due to prosecutorial misconduct, mismanagement, or withholding of evidence (trust me, I’ve tried).
This opinion opens the door for judges to exercise more discretion in dismissing poorly managed cases. In this case, the prosecutor withheld a a 60-page victim statement from the defense until the day of trial. Unbelievable! Imagine this: your attorney has geared up for trial. They agonizingly prepped the case from start to finish. Attorney has their theme, theory, motions in limine, opening statement, closing statement, voir dire questions, direct exam questions, and cross exam questions fully prepared before entering the court. All of the sudden, prosecutor plops a huge pamphlet of papers in front of defense attorney’s face. “Sorry you have no time to review this new statement, but go ahead and cross examine my witness on this.” Unbelievable. We have no idea what the statement contains. If admitted to evidence, this unread statement could, by itself, utterly throw your case theory out the window.
The Court of Appeals has boldly decided these “Hide the Ball” shenanigens are going to get cases dismissed. That governmental mismanagement materially affects a defendant’s right to a fair trial. Good. I understand that prosecutors work hard. Their caseloads are huge. But hey, let’s be real, people’s lives and liberty are at stake. Constitutional rights are at risk. Consequently, cases should be dismissed when poorly handled and/or mismanaged.